2019 marks the beginning of the 38th year since North Way Christian Community was established in a few homes and eventually a small restaurant in the North Hills.
Perhaps one of the most profound memories of those first days for me highlights the unforeseen blessings of our difficult steps of obedience.
For nearly 18 months prior to those first gatherings, my wife Carol and I had sought to accept a position in a Presbyterian church somewhere outside of Pittsburgh even though we knew that the Lord had done a rather remarkable thing in our seven years of service in our region.
After numerous rejections from churches in different parts of the East Coast and as far west as Indiana, we entered into a relationship with a small congregation that served as a bedroom community primarily for men and women who worked in New York City. The pastor had been there nearly 40 years and the church was ready for a new start. It took three visits and a couple of dozen other conversations and interviews before Carol and I agreed to accept the call to this long established and fairly traditional Presbyterian congregation.
We returned back to Pittsburgh and shared with the people that we loved in our home church, and most especially our family, that we were being called to leave the area and start afresh. That following weekend we announced to the church where I was serving that we would be leaving the first of January, 1981, and put our house on the market and began to prepare to move.
About 10 days had passed since we made the announcement when a phone call came from the Executive Presbyter of New York City who told us that there were some serious issues within the church that had extended the call to us. He told us that he would investigate and get back to us within three days. I’ll never forget his exact wording when he told us of what he had discovered in his visit to the church and conversations with numerous members. He said there was a serious division within the church and that it would “be a tragedy for this church and your family if you accept this call.”
I let those words sink in for quite a while because sometimes obedience can cost others but that may not mean that we shouldn’t move ahead. However, in this case, I clearly heard the Lord say “I did not intend for this to come to pass.”
Keep in mind that at that point I had no job and was unclear as to how I was to support my family going forward. Several people with whom I had been praying over the many previous months began to gather together to pray about what this may mean to our future. On January 2, 1981, we had the first gathering of the core of 9 men and their spouses who would become the founding members of North Way Christian Community. We met in the basement of Jay & Sue Dawson’s home on a cold January day.
Several weeks later, in one of the many hundreds of morning prayer meetings that we had, the Lord spoke a prophetic word through one of the founding members. He said that the Lord had impressed him to say to me that my willingness to “leave the area and lay to rest my desire and dream for the North Hills was akin to Abraham lifting his knife to slay his son Isaac as the Lord had commanded.” Because I had not hesitated to obey the Lord, He provided someone else for that church which went on to do very well and that freed us to know that whatever happened at North Way was not because of our efforts, but by the plan and grace of God.
I share that today because it was the reading that I had in my daily scripture time in Genesis 22. I pray it encourages you in those difficult times when you may not see why the Lord has called you to do something, but just know that obedience is pleasing to the Lord and always carries with it some measure of purpose and blessing. We look with great anticipation into what the Lord may have in this year ahead.